Debbie Pedro, former executive director of the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce, will continue her work in economic development in a new position with the Columbia Development Authority.

Pedro will serve as director of economic coordination as the agency prepares to take control of most of the former Umatilla Chemical Depot outside of Hermiston. She starts Jan. 3, working under the CDA’s executive director Greg Smith.

“People will still be seeing me in Hermiston,” she said, noting that her previous job at the chamber helped her get to know a wide variety of people in Umatilla and Morrow counties. “I think it’s great I already have those connections with folks. I still have the opportunity to support our businesses and the growth of our region.”

Pedro worked for the chamber of commerce for 18 years, including 10 as director. She said in a news release that the chamber’s membership grew from 240 to 440 during her time as director and had reached new levels of financial stability.

“I have enjoyed my time with the chamber and it was tough deciding to leave,” she said in a statement released Wednesday. “I saw some things I could do on a regional basis with the new position and with the chamber being in good hands, I decided it was time to make a change.”

Her new role will take her to the Columbia Development Authority’s offices at the Port of Morrow in Boardman.

The CDA is a partnership between Umatilla County, Morrow County, the Port of Umatilla, the Port of Morrow and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. About 7,500 of the 19,700 acres of the former Umatilla Chemical Depot were transferred to the Oregon Military Department for a training facility, but the CDA’s board has been working with the U.S. Army to transfer the remaining acres to local control.

Some will be used for a wildlife refuge, while other sections have an industrial zoning, and a strip of land along Interstate 82 will also be available for commercial development. The CDA plans to recruit businesses to the property once the land is transferred, and Pedro will play a part in that in her new role.

Greg Smith, who serves as the CDA’s executive director as part of a contract between the CDA and Gregory Smith & Company, said in a statement he was pleased to be able to hire Pedro.

“The Columbia Development Authority and I are lucky to have Debbie join the team,” he said in a statement. “She brings to the job a wealth of knowledge of the area and the people associated with the Umatilla Depot. Debbie is someone who will jump into the job immediately.”

To fill the vacancy left by Pedro at the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce, the chamber plans to have marketing director Kelly Schwirse and board chair Paul Keeler oversee operations while the chamber searches for a new executive director.

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